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Ellesmere Port community farm gains £17,000 in grants to help teenagers

Initiative will make a very real difference to those in need

Alex Siddall, Westminster Foundation; Clair Johnson, Bridge Community Farms; David Briggs, Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire; and Francis Ball, Bridge Community Farms

A funding boost will help a social enterprise in Ellesmere Port to extend a helping hand to more teenagers.

Bridge Community Farms has been able to expand its work experience to young people in the area thanks to financial support from a number of organisations.

The working farm, which first began operating in 2015, received £17,000 which has allowed them to employ deputy wellness manager Charlie Cooke.

Charlie is qualified in health and social care and the farm believes his appointment will enable it to develop the wellness side of the operation and increase the number of clients with mental health issues and children with behavioural problems.

The project was made possible thanks to grants from six charitable funds including support from off licence retail chain Conviviality Retail, the Westminster Foundation, which manages the giving of the Grosvenor family and the Grosvenor Estate and which supports communities in need and Quality Freight which has a distribution terminal on the town’s waterfront.

The three funds, along with others, are administered by the Cheshire Community Foundation which aims to match charitable donors with the causes that matter most in Cheshire and Warrington.

Bridge Community Farms explains it provides work opportunities and experience for vulnerable, hard to reach young people who have mental health and learning difficulties, who are not in education or employment or who are struggling in the classroom.

They are taught valuable skills enabling them to farm the land, donate food parcels to those living in poverty and sell the produce to help the organisation become sustainable.

In its first year of operation, the enterprise worked with 65 volunteers with some degree of mental health and learning difficulties. Of these five now have permanent jobs elsewhere.

Francis Ball, who set up Bridge Community Farms, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this funding for our ‘Work experience for teenagers’ programme.

“The funds will make a huge difference to the lives of those in our community. We are building the infrastructure on the farm to enable us to work with 12 students per day, four days per week and have 12 appropriately skilled volunteers wanting to mentor these students.

“With additional wet weather growing facilities - two more 90 feet poly tunnels - and a new deputy wellness manager we can help these students and involve their families, which will lead to significant improvements in school and in turn lead to less antisocial behaviour and far better employment prospects.”

Wendy Doherty, people director for Conviviality Retail, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to help such a deserving social enterprise as Bridge Community Farms.”

Zoe Sheppard, chief executive officer of Cheshire Community Foundation said: “This is a superb example of a charitable fund making a very real difference to those in need in Ellesmere Port.

“We are extremely grateful for the support provided by Conviviality Retail, Westminster Foundation, Quality Freight and our other generous donors to Bridge Community Farms to this vital community project.”

The work experience initiative was successfully piloted with Whitby High School to provide alternative learning for children with severe behavioural problems.

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